Nine members of Congress on Friday were set to tour the blood-stained and bullet-marred halls of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the site of a 2018 mass shooting that left 14 students and three staff members dead.
Florida Reps. Jared Moskowitz (D) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R) organized the tour. Moskowitz, a Stoneman Douglas graduate, said he expects it will have “a profound impact” on the six Democrats and three Republicans who belong to the House School Safety and Security Caucus.
The high school is currently closed for summer break.
Few people have been inside the three-story building since Valentine’s Day 2018, when then-24-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student at the high school, opened fire, killing 17 and wounding 14 others.
Five media outlets were allowed to view the damage after the jury in Cruz’s case did so. According to the Associated Press, an unfinished chess game that one of the murdered students had been playing remains in place. There is also broken glass on the floor.
Cruz pleaded guilty in 2021 and was sentenced to life in prison.
Friday will be the first time a Congressional delegation tours the mass shooting site. It had been suggested by Max Schachter, whose 14-year-old son, Alex, died in the shooting. Schachter is now a full-time school safety advocate.
The Congress members will be joined by Cruz’s prosecutors and members of the victims’ families when they tour the stained and damaged halls.
“When you watch something like this on TV, you’re a thousand feet away—they show a picture of the building,” said Moskowitz. “You don’t see the impact that the shooting had on the families…or the impact on a community when a school becomes a war zone.”
Following the tour, ballistics experts will reenact Cruz’s mass shooting by firing up to 139 shots of live ammo from the same spots where Cruz attacked with an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle. The bullets will be caught by a safety device. Techs will record the sound of the gunfire to try to capture what the law officer assigned to the school, Scot Peterson, heard during the six-minute attack.
The undertaking is part of a lawsuit brought by victims’ families and the 14 wounded that accuses Peterson of failing in his duties to protect the staff and students inside the school.
In June Peterson, former deputy in Florida’s Broward County Sheriff’s Office, was found not guilty to 11 counts, including felony child neglect, after he remained outside the high school building while Cruz committed his slaughter.
After Friday’s Congressional tour and reenactment, the Broward school district says it will begin demolishing the building.